Shaking in my shoes
It’s 11pm and six of us are huddled on the stairs of the Commandant’s House in Port Arthur Historic Site. We’re the only ones left in the former convict settlement – the day trippers departed hours ago and we passed the last of the ghost tours on our way in. A milky glow from a weak moon filters through a distant window as our torches make shadows dance around the hallway. Caitlan, one of our guides, turns on a sound recorder, clears her throat and in a calm, even voice says, “Is there anyone there?” A deathly silence engulfs the room. “Can anyone hear me? Touch one of us if you can hear me.”
She’s holding a Zoom H4n, a sensitive portable sound recorder, which right now I’m sure must be picking up the voice in my head that’s screaming “PLEASE DON’T TOUCH ME!!!”
I’m on a ghost hunt, or to give the tour its proper name, a Paranormal Investigation Experience. It’s the brainchild of Caitlan and Mel, two Port Arthur guides who hope to collect scientific data to backup the folders of anecdotal evidence about paranormal activity at the site.
Our evening begins with a briefing in the lunatic asylum. Mel flips open a Men In Black-style suitcase to reveal the gadgets we’ll have at our disposal. In addition to the Zoom H4n, there’s a KII meter for measuring electromagnetic fields, an instrument for measuring temperature and pressure fluctuations and a video camera that’s been adapted to capture infrared light.
Written evidence of unexplained happenings at Port Arthur dates back to 1870. Phenomena range from disembodied voices to poltergeist movement to people being physically attacked. Mel and Caitlan have both had several unnerving encounters yet remain remarkably sceptical.